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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Meet the Aussie Photographers Shooting the Country's Best Bar Teams

Capturing the multi-sensory world of the cocktail.
By Kelly Pigram
August 25, 2016
  shares

Meet the Aussie Photographers Shooting the Country's Best Bar Teams

Capturing the multi-sensory world of the cocktail.
By Kelly Pigram
August 25, 2016
  shares

in partnership with

Australia has a love affair with bartenders. Photographing these women and men about town, known for their prowess behind the bar and sought after for their mad mixology skills, has become quite the artform of late.

Our obsession with bar teams and their unique concoctions has been realised in a nationwide competition run by Auchentoshan, dubbed Distilled Different. Twelve of Australia's best bar teams have created a cocktail incorporating Auchentoshan American Oak — the only triple distilled Scottish single malt whisky in the world. They're going head-to-head to win bragging rights, an epic photo shoot and a huge team trip to Glasgow.

Before the winner is crowned, all 12 bar teams will appear in the national Dare to be Distilled Different photography exhibition. Their talented faces and creative cocktails will be captured by three up-and-coming photographers, all chosen by Art Pharmacy. We asked them how they plan to bring the multi-sensory world of the cocktail — and the unique story behind each bar team — to life.

Oli Samsom

OLI SAMSOM (MELBOURNE)

Why are you excited about shooting bartenders for the Auchentoshan competition?

I'm excited to bring my love and fascination of the dim, grim and classical to help represent a glorious bunch of artists in a craft pretty far removed from mine. Collaboration is king and I'm pretty stoked to make something that the teams and folks within them are all proud of.

Has social media, particularly Instagram, changed the way you photograph cocktails?

I try not to let mediums change how I shoot. I'm aware of little tricks and approaches that work best for the platform, but I think the devil is in trying to get a maximum arbitrary return each and every time. There's a lot to be said for doing stuff the way you feel is right, even if it means admitting the 'engagement' suffers. It's that old quality vs quantity chestnut. And really, if I wanted the most amount of engagement the quickest, I'd just be posting landscape shots and swimsuit images in alteration. If anything though, Instagram in particular has encouraged me to do what I love, which is write in my own voice. It hits sleeper followers in ways that you only find out about later.

How do you think photography has played a role in making people more interested in getting to know their city's bartenders? They're more revered than ever now.

It's no secret and should be no surprise to anyone that the current movement across hospitality, or anything remotely craft-related, centres on celebrating the folks behind the product. We're seeing that in mass media with cooking shows shifting spin to the makers being held up as 'rock stars'. This also goes along with the whole 'care economy' happening everywhere: a competition for who gives a shit the most — which has been a great thing for culture, tourism, the lot. We're competing on who does things best, not so much price, speed, or geographic factors.

With the general standard being lifted, folks are wanting to experience more of the story of those behind the curtain, they're wanting to see that care first-hand, and enjoy that romance of skill and attention to detail. Photography plays a huge role in that. Much like photography has been the underrated force in driving the feel and magic/mystique of our favourite musicians over the years, a strong image that sets the scene for a maker, in this case a bartender, can really help cement them as a maker and give an intelligent and artistic glimpse into their world and what's involved.

Take us through the process of shooting in low light — bar's aren't the brightest or easiest to shoot of places.

Bars are an interesting old beast, not only are they dim, but there are a lot of competing light sources, reflections, and surfaces that are sometimes ideal as a punter in the space, but more of a challenge to represent photographically. So it becomes a mix of celebrating the light and mood as it exists through longer exposures, while bringing out the subjects with artificial light in a tasteful way. I'm a fan of subtle composites so that will form part of the approach too.

What's your creative concept for capturing the bar teams you'll be shooting?

With these shoots all being on location, ultimately they'll be pretty informed by the space they're set in. So I'll be keeping the focus simple, on what's driven most of my existing work: mood, stillness, and a dash of old-world.

Savannah Van Der Niet

SAVANNAH VAN DER NIET (BRISBANE)

Why are you excited about shooting bartenders for the Auchentoshan competition?

I enjoy the challenge of capturing people — meeting a stylistic brief but also trying to show a bit of the character in the subjects as well.

How do you think photography has played a role in making people more interested in getting to know their city's bartenders? 

I think it's about connection. People want a human element in the imagery they see to make them feel comfortable and enticed. Photographers can use their skill to shed light on a bartender's personality.

Take us through the process of shooting in low light — bars aren't the brightest or easiest to shoot of places.

I generally shoot with natural light and focus more on people and food than bars. So usually I'll shoot during the day. Or I will bring my lights along.

What's your creative concept for capturing the bar teams you'll be shooting? 

My creative concept is to focus on the personalities of the bar staff and the cocktail they will be making. I can't wait!

Brendan Fitzpatrick

Brendan Fitzpatrick

BRENDAN FITZPATRICK (SYDNEY)

Why are you excited about shooting bartenders for the Auchentoshan competition?

Photography allows me to draw back the curtain on subjects and learn something from the time spent in their world. The science of bartending and cocktail making has a long history and a nuanced culture. The best bartenders are artists in their field. I learn a lot listening to them talk about an art crafted from a very different palette of materials from my own.

Has social media, particularly Instagram, changed the way you photograph cocktails?

Nothing will ever change the way I shoot cocktails. I am entirely platform-agnostic when it comes to my cocktail shoots.

How do you think photography has played a role in making people more interested in getting to know their city's bartenders? They're more revered than ever now.

Digital platforms have allowed businesses to communicate directly with their customers. Each bartenders and team has their own personality — I intend to capture this through this competition and share it with the world.

Take us through the process of shooting in low light — bars aren't the brightest or easiest to shoot of places.

The main thing to have to hand in a dark space is a light. The light banishes the dark. No matter if you're a photographer in a bar or just a civilian at home minding your own business, there's nothing like a light to get you over the line.

What's your creative concept for capturing the bar teams you'll be shooting? 

The bars have worked hard to differentiate themselves through their design and branding. I hope some of the techniques and ideas I use will be inspired by what they've created. In broad terms I see the bar as a stage and the bar teams themselves as actors on that stage. Right now I'm researching, meeting everyone and listening to their stories. The more I understand them and why they do things in the manner specific to them, the better I can convey their unique personality in a single image.

Published on August 25, 2016 by Kelly Pigram

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